The Spring Garden

Despite late freezes, drought, and earlier-than-normal warm temperatures, it’s been a lovely, affirming spring in my garden. Plants are growing, leafing out, and blooming in their typical order and roughly on their same schedule. Some, like the multitudes of Tradescantia, Spiderwort, were so eager for spring to happen that they’re over-performing. Of course that has nothing to do with the fact that I routinely fail to control them by weeding during fall and winter. Ahem.

My Spiderwort are pass-alongs varieties and they’ve mix-n-matched for years, so I don’t have a definitive species. Because of their height, I suspect T. gigantea, but regardless of species, the flowers are stunning in shades of purples with a few pinky hues. Some are pure lavender, with rounded petals,

…and some are deeper lavender with or triangulated petals

Certain individuals bloom in shades trending pink. These below sport ruffly petals.

No matter their color or form, Spiderworts are favorites of the honeybees. Flowering early and for most of the spring season, bees are keeping busy with the nectar sipping and the pollen collecting.

The first yellow in my garden is typically Golden Groundsel, Packera obovata. The little group I have brightens a shady spot.

The groundsel echos the Adirondack chairs: cheery blooms, comfortable chairs.

Last year’s deep, destructive freeze ended 2021 hopes for the luscious clusters of blooms from Mountain Laurel, Sophora secundiflora. This year, both of my Mountain Laurels flowered beautifully, if too briefly. These blooms are known for their grape juice fragrance. Weirdly, I can’t detect their very sweet fragrance unless my nose is right up in the flowers or at night, with whiffs of the grape scent on the wind.

The irises I grow, all pass-along plants, have bloomed prolifically this spring, more so than in many years.

I think every single bulb, even those that I separated and replanted in the fall, have pushed up stalks and adorned those stalks with flowers. The irises are still going strong and are now joined by European poppies. Tall, leafy American Basket flower stalks await their turn to shine in the sun, while a couple of Martha Gonzalez rose bushes add pops of rich red and burgundy-tinged foliage.

Spiderworts, irises, and poppies are all plants-gone-wild this spring, but the heat and drought have sadly rendered the columbines less floriferous. As well, given my now full-sun front garden, columbines won’t grow there–they fry in Texas sun.

This one, as well as a couple of others, still have a place in the back garden. I plan to add more in the shadier areas because I can’t resist these graceful additions to the garden.

Hill Country Penstemon, Penstemon triflorus, are in top form this year. Hummingbird moths and Horsefly-like carpenter bees are regular visitors.

I wonder if pollinators have a hard time deciding? Hmmm. Penstemons or Spiderworts? What am I in the mood for??

Of course, it’s not only gorgeous bloom time, but foliage presents a worthy rival in beauty and form during verdant spring. This silvery-green Mexican Feathergrass, Nassella tenuissima, waves, adding movement and action in the garden. In the past, I’ve witnessed migrating Painted Buntings nibbling at the tiny seeds that feathergrass produces. I wonder if those colorful birds will find this patch as they move through my garden this spring?

The drought continues and summer will be a bear, but I’m grateful for the gentle artistry and renewal of life that is spring.

What’s in your spring garden this year? I hope it’s colorful and ever-changing and provides a respite from the world’s troubles.

Happy spring gardening!

Texas Truism

Ah, the smell of spring in the Texas air!

RICOH IMAGING

Northwest face of my Mountain laurel.

The grape-soda-spring-in-the-air smell, that is.

RICOH IMAGING

Southeast side

Texas mountain laurel, Sophora secundiflora, is at its peak of bloom in Austin and such a spring cliché, that I’m reluctant to add my photographic two-cents worth to the throngs of purple-powered photos appearing on FB, Nextdoor and elsewhere.

Clearly, I’ve overcome my hesitation.

Walking, riding my bike, and driving in the car, I frequently get a snoot-full of this heady, cloying fragrance, reminiscent of grape soda.

Texas mountain laurels are everywhere and why not?  They are beautiful small trees year-round and stunningly beautiful trees during their short spring bloom period. The blooms are early this year, along with the awakening of so many other plants. Mild-to-warm winters and weird premature spring action has become the norm over the past couple of decades in Austin. There was a time that mountain laurels bloomed consistently in March–sometimes earlier, sometimes later–but rarely in February.

Times have changed and the climate has changed.

I don’t mind an early spring, though that might mean an early summer and given the long, warm season in Texas, I don’t know many, myself included, eager for that particular scenario. But pollinators are pleased at the beginning of floral bounty and who can complain about that?

Honeybee

Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes)

Regardless, spring is here and there’s not too much we can do to slow the onslaught of new blooms-n-foliage.  Breathe deeply and enjoy!